This is part one of The Story Book.
“For Christian faith is faith in God and when the Christian Confession names God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, it is pointing to the fact that in His inner life and nature, God is not dead, not passive, not inactive, but that God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit exist in an inner relationship and movement, which may very well be described as a story.”
– Karl Barth
In the middle of the form-critical German theological revolution, which popularized the idea of detached analysis of biblical text, Karl Barth dared to say the risky. He challenged his peers to recognize that so much focus on individual syntax ran the risk of missing the obvious: that to know God is to experience a story. He was making the argument that ultimately, while the trees were interesting, it is really about the forest.
Life is story. God is story. Unlike the cyclical pagan gods of the ancient days, God has history. God lived with the Isarelites. God experienced their ups and downs. Eventually, when the suspense was sufficient, God sent Jesus to enter the stage.
To experience God is story, lived and told and received.
We know God when Jesus Christ ceases being dogma, or sets of facts based on someone else’s story, and becomes part of our story, through the stories of Scripture and the stories of our lives. To attempt to understand God by any other means, including formation of doctrines and principles for living, is to engage in a process of translation.
Those sorts of translations didn’t do it for me growing up in church. Ask my mom, who woke me up every Sunday with her elbow in my ribs. Even her handbag of Hot Wheels, crosswords and Velamints didn’t do the trick. I was Pavlovian: my Dad began preaching, and I started catching flies.
It wasn’t until I got to college and stumbled upon Acts that everything changed: Whoa! Nobody ever told me there were cool stories of prisons and big fights and shipwrecks and snakebites in the Bible! Suddenly everything in the Bible was awesome. I imagined Schwarzenegger playing Samson. (Apparently I am not the only one with this idea.)
Stories make boring religion come alive.
The recent metal codices discovery has rejuvenated global interest in religion, even among non-believers. Why? Because when you see something as awesome as an actual first century book, you can’t help but recast Christianity as an actual story with real characters.
The very structure of our faith is narrative, because revelation occurs in time, not out of time, by characters in God’s divine play.
So if story is the basis for faith, what can we learn from story? What would happen if we were to think of our lives as a story? In a series of posts I am going to explore the nature of story and some of what it might teach us about being followers of Christ.